Sometimes my intrigue gets the best of me. Today that intrigue led me to a sit-down with Warren Brown of Mineola. Mr. Brown was very nice and very gracious to offer a me a few moments of his time while at his office at City National Bank, Mineola.
I asked Mr. Brown to summarize the reasons for wanting the city to raze the EZ Mart and put a parking lot in that spot. His answer was that for a long time, leaders of the city have realized that they need more parking downtown. Adding parking to downtown will draw more people to local businesses and generate more tax revenue and income for the city.
My next question was: Will that parking lot generate enough income for the city to offset the loss of revenue generated by EZ Mart?
According to Mr. Brown, the EZ Mart is #2 in alcohol sales in Mineola, there is “no way they’re going to abandon Mineola.” Mr. Brown has it on good authority that if the city did not renew the lease, that EZ Mart would have a new store built and open by the time the original lease runs out. When asked if EZ Mart had been formally approached about this, he said he did not know if they had or not. When asked who owns the EZ Mart, Mr. Brown could not tell me who owns it. Mr. Brown is the Chairman of the Mineola Industrial and Economic Commission.
Is it the fact that EZ Mart sells beer and wine that is causing some people to have a problem with it?
Mr. Brown stated that he knows two former employees of EZ Mart who felt unsafe working nights, many “drunks” come into the store and the clerks apparently are sometimes uncomfortable with that. Being a former overnight clerk at a 7-11 in Arlington, I can understand that, but it is part of the job and that would not change at a new location. Mr. Brown then stated that the EZ Mart does seem to attract some “unsavory characters” because it brings people in to the town from outlaying areas to purchase beer and wine. Statistics at the Mineola Police Department will show a non-noticeable move in alcohol-related crimes in Mineola since the 2011 election when propositions one and two were approved by the voters of Mineola.
I came right out and asked Mr. Brown if the beer trucks were a problem. He replied that many people have complained about them being parked next to the Mineola First Baptist Church and Youth Center. I am in no position to make any offers on behalf of anyone, but to that I had to ask if the beer was delivered by non-branded trucks if that would make things any better. The answer was that every little bit helps, but in general, no. I see beer trucks at EZ Mart during the day on weekdays. I have never seen beer trucks or any other type of trucks for that matter, at the EZ Mart during or even close to church services or events.
When asked about the cost of removing the underground tanks and the cost of the associated cleanup, Mr. Brown initially stated that this would be the responsibility of EZ Mart. Since the city owns the land and EZ Mart leases it, we would then essentially tell a thriving Mineola business that they have to relocate then come back and clean up the previous location. I can’t imagine any business in that situation that would do that. After we discussed that point for a moment, he was also questioning how that scenario would work out.
When asked about the employees at the EZ Mart, Mr. Brown’s response was that if the company relocates, there would be more employees. When asked what would happen if they did not relocate, he referred to these as “minimum wage jobs.”
Mr. Brown stated that there are two large churches adjacent to the EZ Mart and that seems to be a problem with some. Soon after the 2011 beer/wine election, city officials were tasked with determining if EZ Mart was far enough away from the churches to legally sell beer and wine. Obviously, that determination was a “yes.”
In summary, my conversation with Warren Brown gained this:
I never said the word “church.” He used that word multiple times. If the EZ Mart draws unsavory characters, relocating it will only get them away from the church. The logic leads to a conclusion that the churches seem to be spearheading this movement. This theme was also mentioned by several commenters on our Facebook page.
I’d like to thank Mr. Brown for his time. Upon parting, I mentioned that I would see him at Monday night’s City Council meeting and he assured me he would be there.
If you are concerned about a small minority of people using their power to make changes to our town that the majority does not want, come to the City Council meeting on Monday, January 23rd at 6:00 PM. Your city needs to hear your voices! The city of Mineola is NOT behind this effort. They will, however, be the ones to act on it one way or another.
Scott Hazard – MineolaBuzz.com